Midnight Musings

Despite it being the season to be jolly, I’ve been feeling pretty serious of late. As world events continue to astound and upset, I find myself constantly calling into question where we as a species will end up. I fear I already know the answer. It is incredible to think we have so much knowledge and power at our disposal, and yet we are on a crash course to destroy ourselves. We have not learned from past mistakes, and we are rapidly destroying and outgrowing the planet we call home. Even if we do manage to colonise another planet, how will any but the richest survive? And what will we be? Destined to live forever more as the Universe’s parasites? We have evolved so much and yet we cannot free ourselves from corruption and greed. These two things are threatening our existence, yet most of us prefer to stick our heads in the sand rather than acknowledge what’s happening and fight for change.

What is our purpose, here, on this planet? Were we really created by chance? I know the evidence seems stacked against there being a ‘God’, in whatever guise He/She may take, and yet I find myself questioning if it might just be conceivable that we aren’t alone in all of this; that something is watching us, guiding us, pulling our strings. Maybe ‘God’, maybe a superior species. For all we know we could be some alien experiment; a whole world in a snow globe on an alien life form’s office desk. I kind of like that idea.

If there is a God, it’s hard to understand how such terrible things can happen without some sort of intervention. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe it was never God’s role to save us from ourselves. Only we can do that. But will we? As things currently stand I’m just not sure.



Bursting Bubbles

Today I attended the Belgian PR Summit (or at least the first hour of it, which was in English. Unfortunately my French and Dutch skills, or lack thereof, didn’t allow me to participate further), and a point that one of the keynote speakers, Will McInnes, made has really stuck with me. We are living in a time where, globally-speaking, we are more connected than ever. And yet, social media has put us into ‘filter bubbles’ from which most of us fail ever to break out. When we search for things on the internet, the results aren’t a real representation of what’s ‘out there’, they are merely holding up a mirror to our own narrow viewpoint, enabling us to reinforce these views without scrutiny. Will used Brexit (I still shudder at the word) as an example: so many of us believed we would remain, because our personal bubbles reassured us that we would. In reality, however, a totally different conversation was happening all around us, one that we were dangerously blind to. And now the same has happened in America.

If ever there were a time for us to collectively wake up, this, my friends, is it.

But how to shout outside the bubble in which we have unwittingly found ourselves? I am scratching my head as I type this trying to work it out. But work it out we must. Instead of having conversations with other people like us, it’s time to start initiating conversation with those who aren’t. As someone who believes that fundamentally humans are good (because otherwise stop the world, I want to get off), I cannot let myself fall into the trap of branding everyone who voted for Brexit or for Trump (very different situations, I hasten to add, but both with far-reaching consequences for us all) as ignorant, racists, or any of the other terms being bandied about by people in ‘my’ bubble. Even if I find it hard to disagree, I have to try to stop thinking of ‘them’ and ‘us’, because that just makes the problem even worse. Vilifying people makes the gulf even wider. Instead, would it not be logical to try and start a dialogue with those whose views are different to our own, so we can better understand their point of view, and they can better understand ours? True, the most vocal people in both camps are a lost cause in this respect, but there must be many moderates on both sides who are prepared to hear each other out. Surely if we engage in a non-confrontational way we can better understand the real issues, and work out a way to address them that doesn’t involve stirring up anger and hatred?

I don’t know what the answer is, but I plan to do a lot of thinking about it. Because if we don’t work out how to break free from our bubbles, we are essentially just shouting into the void. And the future of humanity in a world where bubbles never burst is a truly terrifying prospect.



Proof of Life / Life Lesson

Last night I took my external hard drive from its safe spot in the bottom of the wardrobe, plugged it into the computer and switched it on, with the intention of finding a photograph of me and R to use on our wedding website. Minutes later, on being asked to do something, I jumped up, and, forgetting the wire was in in my way, walked into it and sent the hard drive crashing to the ground. My heart stopped. And, sure enough, when I tried to turn it back on the computer failed to recognise it. It also made a beeping noise (which, as I later read, is never a good sign). A brief call to a data recovery specialist confirmed that paying for professional help was not an option (500-800 Euros? You have got to be kidding me). In the end we whacked it in the freezer for good measure, on the advice of one website that admitted it was a dubious and last ditch method but might possibly work (yeah right), but it is with a heavy heart I am forced to accept that it – along with about five years’ worth of photos – has gone. And most galling of all is that I’ve been here before, having done the same thing a few years ago (and failed to get the data back after parting with 50 quid).

I feel ridiculous admitting it but I’m devastated. Last night I was inconsolable, and couldn’t stop crying. Rightly or wrongly, I value photos enormously. They are a means of remembering all that’s happened in my life, of connecting with my past and demonstrating how I’ve made my mark on the world. Perhaps it’s that last point that’s the most psychologically interesting. People sometimes tease me about how prolific I am on Facebook, and I have often questioned my need to share the details of my life on social media. However, I don’t believe I am a narcissist. My motivation in sharing pictures in particular is not about boasting, or at least my conscious mind disputes that notion. I suppose I do feel a strong need to make my existence in this world tangible, and posting pictures is akin to sticking a sign in the ground saying ‘I woz ‘ere’.

Photographs are, essentially, proof of lives that have been lived. Loath as I am to admit it, on further analysis there is almost certainly a link to my fear of death – of dying, and of people I love dying. I guess I feel somehow that by capturing images I’m keeping myself present, real, alive. And similarly, by capturing pictures of my loved ones I am keeping them alive, and if, God forbid, anything bad should happen, to me or any of them, at least those memories will exist and can be treasured. Is that morbid? Perhaps. But it’s also true.

But what’s done is done. I must move past the sadness, anger and frustration that I’m currently feeling. I’m glad I’m so prolific on Facebook now because I do at least have low resolution copies of the lost files; the memories are not gone forever. But even if they were, what’s most important is the fact I have my health and I have my loved ones – here, in the present, not in the past, which now no longer exists, except in my heart, my mind – and a few low resolution images on Facebook.



Sometimes it gets a bit much, this world. And all the constant pressures on our time, energy leaking from our pores like sand through an egg timer; drip, drip, drip.

Of course we are the lucky ones, the ones who can afford to have hopes and dreams for the future. Or can we? What price must we pay for success? What price for failure?

We don’t so much follow our dreams as barter and fritter them away. As if tomorrow will never come. But of course it always does. Until, quite suddenly, it doesn’t.



I’m currently struggling with a dilemma. It’s of both a personal and financial nature, because I’m trying to decide whether to spend money that I don’t currently have on my personal development. In other words, the big question is whether it’s worth getting further into debt for.

There are pros and cons to both of the options on the table, and I intend to weigh them up very carefully. For the first time in my life – rather embarrassingly, given I’m now 31 years of age – I’m starting to think about my financial future. I have no savings to speak of but am fortunate not to be in an unmanageable amount of debt either.

If I don’t take the plunge with the personal development option I’ll be out of debt and saving for my future within a year (providing I buck the longstanding trend of frittering money away on holidays as soon as my finances are looking vaguely under control). But I will always wonder if I should have gone down that route, and where it might have led me.

If I do take the plunge, the goal of saving within a year will be pushed back. Realistically it could be quite some time (and by this I mean a very long time) before I’m in a position to put down a deposit on a house anyway, but in doing this I’ll have to accept it will be even longer. And yet…I might have gained something that money can’t buy which will help me for the rest of my life.

I don’t believe that money can buy happiness, which is really just as well considering the sector I work in and the salary I’m currently on. That said, I’m fully aware what money can buy is security – and the ability to splurge on the occasional weekend away, which those who know me will attest to my being rather partial to.

I’ve always struggled to balance my desire to ‘make a difference’ with my desire to enjoy life to the full and it’s a struggle that’s getting harder as time passes. But something’s telling me that now’s the time to take responsibility for my actions, to make a plan and stick to it, whatever sacrifices that entails. Because there will be sacrifice with either option, of that I’m sure.

I’ve always gone with my heart over my head but now I have to decide whether to keep doing that or buck the trend and be ‘sensible’ to the detriment of my own personal development. It’s a quandary, but one I am determined to solve, and which I’m certain I’ll come out the other side of stronger.

Why we should be proud of our young people

This afternoon I accompanied two senior members of my charity’s youth-led consultancy board (a group of Teens and Toddlers graduates who now help other young people to continue their personal and professional development, as well as themselves being helped by the charity on an ongoing basis through initiatives like corporate mentoring, work placements and signposting to relevant opportunities) to the Hackney University Technical College in order to do some filming for an exciting new youth initiative (which we’re not yet at liberty to discuss in the public arena). [As an aside, one of the two people I went with also now happens to be my colleague, which goes to show what a great job the charity does in helping young people to develop!]

The filming was coordinated entirely by year 10 students, and it was so incredibly inspirational to see how professional and focused they were, from the cameraman to the interviewer and everyone in between. What I personally found particularly uplifting was watching our young people talking to the students about how the charity had helped them, and seeing how enthusiastic they all were about this project and the prospect of working together in the future.

There will always be the odd down day in any job, but if ever I needed a reminder why I do this job it was this afternoon’s experience. This kind of frontline interaction is exactly what I’ve felt was missing in my previous jobs, and it’s both a privilege and an honour to be able to work closely with such fantastic young people on a regular basis.

Anyone with doubts about the future of today’s youth need only look to our YLCB and the Hackney UTC students to see there’s still so much to be hopeful about. Far from being a lost cause, on the basis of what I witnessed today we have every reason to be proud of the younger generation. Many of them are the leaders of tomorrow, and I have high hopes they’ll achieve great things.

Past tense

If you get a chance to see the soon to be released Kings of Summer, one of this year’s Sundance Film Festival’s offerings, you won’t be disappointed. Unless, that is, you don’t like American coming of age dramas, in which case you might be best advised to steer well clear. But, for the purposes of this post, let’s assume this type of film does float your boat. Reminiscent of Stand by Me and set, in the main, in a house in the woods that three teenage friends built together, it covers the well-trodden territory of friendships made and broken, turbulent parent-child relationships and first love. The script is both funny and poignant, the setting charming and the actors superb; in particular the three boys who are the focus of the film. In short, it’s an engaging snapshot of the innocence of youth.

Ah, the innocence of youth; a time when everything seemed possible, the endless road of life stretching into a distance too far away to see and therefore too far off to worry about. There were immediate concerns, of course – like who was going on dates with whom, how you could get out of gym class and whether you could procure some vodka for the party at the weekend – but in the main it was so simple then. Wasn’t it? Or was it?

Remembering the past with fondness is a good thing because, whether good or bad the things that happened to you then have shaped the person who you are today. But clinging onto the past and believing that things were better than they are now isn’t healthy. What’s even worse is if you feel the best phase of your life is past, that you’ll never look as good again, or be as carefree, joyous or happy-go-lucky.

The passage of time makes it all too easy to forget the negatives and re-paint the past with a rosy hue that wasn’t always (if ever) present. When things go wrong in life it’s easy to revert to happier times in our thinking and to ardently wish we could rewind the clock and do it all again – only this time making different choices to avoid making the same mistakes.

But if you find yourself flooded with nostalgia about days gone by, ask yourself this: If you could choose to flick a switch and be your fifteen year old self again, go through your adolescence again, warts and all, would you take it – really? Or would you rather keep the memories of roaming the woods with best friends, long summers and first kisses as just that – memories to be treasured, but not pored over as examples of better times?

No matter how old you are the future seems far too far away to see. Who knows what adventures still lie ahead of you? And how many opportunities you’ll miss by always looking back?

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